Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Protomartyr: Tiny Desk Concert

The Detroit band Protomartyr makes loud, screeching rock that's more thoughtful than thrilling. It only takes a few seconds of the group's brightly lit Tiny Desk performance for things to get pretty deep: "False happiness is on the rise," enigmatic frontman Joe Casey deadpans. "See the victims piled high in a room without a roof."

The song "Why Does It Shake?" is from the band's profound, poetic, often grousing third album The Agent Intellect, a title derived from Aristotle's theories about human thought and how ideas move from the possible to the tangible. (Cue sound of brain exploding.)

Casey never cracks a smile and barely moves throughout this performance, hiding behind dark sunglasses and looking sharp in a gray suit, hands in pockets. It's almost bewildering at times to watch someone so composed deliver such sharp narratives, backed by squealing guitar noise. But that's part of Protomartyr's allure. Casey quietly contains the storm as Protomartyr finishes its set with the darkly twisted "Devil In His Youth," also from The Agent Intellect, and the ruminative "Three Swallows," from the band's 2012 debut on Urinal Cake Records, No Passion All Technique.

The Agent Intellectis available now. (iTunes) (Amazon)

Set List

  • "Why Does It Shake?"
  • "Devil In His Youth"
  • "Three Swallows"
  • Credits

    Producers: Robin Hilton, Morgan Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Walker, Julia Reihs; Production Assistant: Kate Drozynski; Photo by Jun Tsuboike/NPR

    For more Tiny Desk Concerts, subscribe to our podcast.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit